24 May 2022

Biodiversity Week events and resources in Laois

Biodiversity Week events and resources in Laois

Anna and Sarah Rothwell pictured at the launch of the new book “Saving Swifts” at Abbeyleix Library. Pic: Alf Harvey

Biodiversity Week will be celebrated across Ireland from May 16th to 22nd and a range of events and resources are available for anyone in Laois with an interest in learning about the natural world.
Catherine Casey, Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said “National Biodiversity Week is all about connecting people with nature. It’s about communicating the importance of biodiversity and motivating people to play their part in protecting it. Here in Laois we are hoping that people will have some fun, and that will inspire them to learn more about the natural world around us and how we can help it”.
In Laois, anyone with an interest in urban birds is invited to a walk to explore swifts with Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland, meeting at the Stradbally Market House at 7pm on Tuesday 17th May. The walk will end at the library and will be followed at 8pm by a Dusk Chorus walk with Des Finnamore of BirdWatch Ireland Laois Branch.
The swift walk is part of an ongoing commitment to swifts by Laois County Council which has seen swift nest boxes installed in public buildings across the county, following the survey of swifts in Laois in2018, and with the support of the Heritage Council and the Local Biodiversity Action Fund.
The most recent action for swifts in Laois has seen swift bricks installed during the construction of the new library in Portlaoise, with the help of BirdWatch Ireland.

With swift boxes at the new library in Portlaoise. From left: Laois County Librarian Bernie Foran; Gerry Browne, Portlaoise Tidy Towns; Ricky Whelan, BirdWatch Ireland; Catherine Casey, Laois Heritage Officer and Wes Wilkinson, Senior Executive Engineer, Portlaoise Municipal District Roads Office. Picture: Alf Harvey 

Bernie Foran, County Librarian said “We were delighted to work with BirdWatch Ireland to provide suitable habitat for swifts to nest in our new library. The historic centre of Portlaoise is a stronghold for these birds, and having had nest boxes on the existing library, we were aware of how important it is to provide for them in the new building. We were grateful to Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland for his advice and support in installing the swift bricks at the new library site”
Ricky Whelan, Swift Project Officer with of BirdWatch Ireland said: “It's fantastic to see Laois County Council and local communities collaborate to help this charismatic and endangered bird. The swift bricks installed at Portlaoise Library will increase nesting opportunities for swifts in the area and we hope that this this have a positive impact on the population locally”.
The swift project is just one of a number of biodiversity projects ongoing in Portlaoise, as the town’s “Town in a Garden” project goes from strength to strength.

Gerry Browne, Chair of Portlaoise Tidy Towns said: “We have already done a lot of planting for biodiversity in Portlaoise, including pollinator-friendly planting on our roundabouts and roadsides, and the planting of 10,000 native trees. This year we are working on a three year biodiversity plan for the town, and we look forward to seeing the benefits of that in the years to come”.

Dearbhala Ledwidge, Kilkenny Heritage officer; Catherine Casey, Laois Heritage officer and Ricky Whelan, Birdwatch Ireland pictured at the launch of the new book “Saving Swifts” at Abbeyleix Library. The book is a joint publication of BirdWatch Ireland and the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network”. Picture: Alf Harvey, no reproduction fee supplied from Laois Heritage Office.

The focus on wildlife living closely alongside humans continues with an online talk on wildlife in buildings with John Lusby of BirdWatch Ireland on Wednesday 18th May, starting at 8pm. The talk celebrates the launch of a new book and documentary on the topic, created by BirdWatch Ireland in partnership with Heritage Officers from Laois, Tipperary, Clare and Donegal County Council and the Biodiversity Office of Kerry County Council.
Wildlife in buildings can often be harmed during works due to a lack of awareness of their presence or indeed knowledge of how plan renovations and works in order to avoid disturbance, which is usually always possible. The loss of old stone structures due to demolition, dilapidation or renovation is linked to declines in species such as Barn Owl and Swift, which are dependent on these structures. Modern buildings do not provide the same opportunities for wildlife. However, there is a lot that we can do to improve modern buildings for wildlife to ensure that we continue to make space for nature. The new book can be downloaded and the film viewed at in-buildings-documentary- released/ 
Resources for Children, Schools and Families The Heritage Office of Laois County Council has focused on producing high quality material for children and schools as well as for adults in recent years and all of this material is free to download from their website at, including -

  • Gardening for Biodiversity book and colouring book by Juanita Browne
  • Saving Swifts and Wildlife in Buildings books by BirdWatch Ireland
  • Guides to building nest-boxes for birds and bats, from BirdWatch Ireland
  • “Wild things at School” book and worksheets by Eanna Ní Lamhna
  • Nature Activity sheets for kids by Reconnect with Nature
  • A video guide to bird song for young people by Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland
  • “In your Nature” Podcast by BirdWatch Ireland
  • “Spring into Nature” worksheets
  • Radio clips with nature tips, from Midlands 103 

These resources were produced with the support of the Heritage Council, the Local Biodiversity Action Fund of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Creative Ireland Laois and Healthy Ireland.

Anna and Sarah Rothwell pictured at the launch of the new book “Saving Swifts” at Abbeyleix Library. The book is a joint publication of BirdWatch Ireland and the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network”. Picture: Alf Harvey

Details of all events and resources for Biodiversity Week in Laois are available at

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